The “broken windows” theory of crime:
The basic insight of the “broken windows” theory is that serious crime is kept low when petty crime such as vandalism is kept down. Lesser crimes leave the way open for greater crimes. At least that is my reading of it.
How does this remind me of handling a wife? Like this. As a husband, I have found that arguing with my wife about her “lesser crimes” seems to prevent worse “crimes”. I think women are – “given an inch” – inclined to “take an ell”. That is, they will behave about as badly as you allow them to. If you argue with the missus about how long her skirts should be, you will not be arguing with her about whether she should wear skirts in the first place. If you are like me, and you prefer your wife not to wear pants (trousers), this is a better argument to have than one about skirts vs pants.
Likewise, if you remonstrate with her about the quality of her meals, you will not be arguing about whether she should cook at all.
Or if you complain that something she wears out looks tarty, you will not be arguing about whether she should flirt or not. Or, more seriously, if you argue and complain about her flirting, you are less likely to find yourself arguing about whether you should have an “open marriage”.
So, punish and deal with the minor crimes, to prevent the major crimes. Deal with broken windows, lest you have to deal with arson.
A wife will test the boundaries. Set them narrow. Don’t let her do outrageous things without any complaint from you, because she will eventually test you and go too far, and then it will be too late.
The same applies to children.
If you are a husband who wants to be an effective head of the house, this is something to keep in mind.
Here is an example of what NOT to do:
[1 June 2013: Here is something further on the need to stop a wife's disrespect immediately, which SunshineMary discusses at her blog.]